With these Five Keys the Bearcats lock up the world. If not the world than at least a commanding lead in the Big East's race for the BCS.
Watch For Wrinkles
The biggest question mark for this game is going to be the play of Munchie Legaux and how the Bearcats approach the game without Zach Collaros. The going assumption is that with Collaros out the Bearcats are going to get ultra conservative and try to grind out the win on the legs of Isaiah Pead. If history tells us anything it's that Butch Jones doesn't do ultra conservative. Even going back to last years Syracuse game where Chazz Anderson put the ball up 33 times, with generally horrendous results.
What we know about Butch is that he is going to do what he does and make the opposing team stop them. That's not to say that he won't throw in some wrinkles here and there. In schematic terms I don't anticipate anything drastically different Saturday. But I do expect to see some new and different personnel groupings, particularly using Adrien Robinson, Travis Kelce (if healthy) and Blake Annen. I know that Jones used a lot of TE wing formations back at Central Michigan. UC has some different looks in the playbook that haven't been used all that often. This game is a great opportunity to break them out.
The Defensive Line
For UC to walk into Piscataway and come back out with a third straight win Derek Wolfe, John Hughes and Walter Stewart have to dominate the proceedings. The simply truth is that UC's secondary is still a mess because of sub par talent at the safety positions and quite frankly bad coaching from Kerry Coombs. The name of the game for any team facing UC is to keep the QB upright and functioning. If they can do that the Bearcat secondary is exploitable.
Red Zone Efficiency
For all the talk of the Bearcats explosive offense this year, everyone is either overlooking or ignoring something major. UC simply has not been an efficient team in the red zone in Big East play. A big part of that falls on the shoulders of Zach Collaros. I am not trying to put this on the shoulders of the departed, but the numbers don't lie. Of his 8 interceptions on the season 3 of them were in the redzone. Collaros's red zone efficiency is last among regular starters by 20 points. Another factor was the play calling, again its the square peg in a round hole issue. Simply put Munchie can not afford to make the same mistakes that Zach was borderline notorious for making and expect to win his first road start.
Rutgers has precisely one credible weapon on offense. It's Mohamed Sanu. Mark Harrison certainly torched the Bearcats last year. But this will be his first game back from injury and certainly won't be relied on to the same extent that Sanu will. I don't think that UC is going to assign anyone in particular to Sanu. But based on where he tends to line up my guess is that Deven Drane will be on him for the majority of the time. Drane is young, but he is the most talented DB on the roster with a shot at playing on Sundays. A solid performance Saturday will certainly put him on the map with scouts.
Win The Turnover Margin
Forcing turnovers has been the key to UC's success all season long. Winning the turnover margin is the key for UC against Rutgers, another team who's rise has been aided and abetted by turnovers all season long. But the key is that while UC has continued to generate turnovers and protect the Football deep into the season. Rutgers has continued to generate takeaways, their 28 gained is currently 4th nationally, but in recent weeks they have started coughing up the ball at a surprising clip. In the first 5 games of the year Rutgers turned the ball over just 8 times. In the five weeks since they have tacked 14 to that total. UC has to make that streak continue to win tomorrow afternoon.
What are your keys to tomorrows game?